Howard Hodgkin 1932 - 2017

Provenance

with M. Knoedler & Co, New York

Private Collection, USA

Exhibitions

London, Tate Gallery, The Turner Prize 1985, 17 October - 1 December 1985, illus colour

 

New York, M. Knoedler & Co, Howard Hodgkin: Recent Work, 10 May - 5 June, 1986, illus colour p2

 

Nantes, Musee des Beaux- Arts, Howard Hodgkin: Small Paintings 1975-1989, British Council, June - September 1990, illus colour p88, touring to:

Barcelona, Centre Cultural de la Fundacio Caixa de Pensions, October - November 1990

Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, December 1990 - February 1991

Dublin, Trinity College, Douglas Hyde Gallery, March - May 1991

 

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 1975-1995, 30 October 1995- 28 January 1996, illus colour p88, touring to:

Texas, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 31 March -14 July 1996

Düsseldorf, Kunstverein fur die Rheinlande und Westfalen, 17 August - 13 October 1996

 

 

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Collects Howard Hodgkin, 24 March - 20 May 2001, checklist no.5 London, Tate Gallery, Turner Prize: A Retrospective 1984-2006, 2 October 2007 - 6 January 2008

Literature

Alistair Hicks, 'Galleries, Turner Prize/ Tate' The Times, 11 November 1985

 

'Nantes: Howard Hodgkin', L'Oeil, Revue d'art, July- August 1990

 

Michael Auping, John Elderfield, Susan Sontag with Marla Price Howard, Hodgkin, Paintings, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York in association with The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX, 1995, illus colour p88

 

 

Virginia Button, The Turner Prize Twenty Years, Tate Publishing, London, 1997, illus colour p37

 

 

Andrew Graham-Dixon, Howard Hodgkin, Thames and Hudson, London and New York, 2001, illus colour p134

 

 

Ivo Kranzfelder, 'Howard Hodgkin', Kunstler: Kritisches Lexikon der Gegenwartskunst, Vol.54, No.11, Second Quarter, illus colour p8

 

 

Marla Price, Howard Hodgkin, The Complete Paintings, Thames and Hudson, London, 2006, cat no.202, illus colour (full page) p219

 

Description

'A Small Thing But My Own mocks the endless rows of standard sized canvases that roll out of modern art factories. Hodgkin has challenged the orthodoxy of museum art. He varies the size and the materials for each subject matter. He does not want the viewer to walk past lines of canvases enclosed by frames and hung up on the wall. He wants every work to stand out on its own. He paints the frames in order to break down the barrier between the viewer and the picture. One wants to touch A Small Thing But My Own because it has become an object.'[1]

A Small Thing But My Own, 1983- 85 is a hugely significant painting in terms of both Howard Hodgkin's artistic practice and his place within both British and International art at the time and today. This painting was the sole work submitted as his winning entry to the Turner Prize in 1985, after he had been shortlisted in the previous year.

The early 1980s is arguably one of the most important periods in Hodgkin's career in which he reaches an artistic maturity and consolidates his international reputation, which had been steadily growing since a major retrospective organised by the Arts Council in 1976. The success of his solo exhibition at the Knoedler Gallery, New York in 1982 had pushed his reputation across the pond and he had come to stand out amongst his British and international contemporaries. As Robert Hughes recognised in his review of the show,

'The fact that an American audience is paying attention to European painting once more comes as a relief, but before attention gets wholly stylised as fashion, it is worth remembering that England is part of Europe and that some English painters have more to offer than other, more loudly promoted figures of the day. One of them is Howard Hodgkin…Hodgkin is fifty this year: a diffident man with a tough, discursive mind and a long background in art history, collecting and teaching. There is not a more educated painter alive, and it would be hard to think of one whose erudition was more exactly placed at the disposal of feeling. His paintings look abstract but are full of echoes of figures, rooms, sociable encounters; they are small, "unheroic" but exquisitely phrased.[2]'

Thus by 1985, and his winning of the Turner Prize, Hodgkin was reaching his peak. The previous year had marked a breakthrough for the artist when he was chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale. The subsequent touring exhibition in the United States and Germany and which culminated at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in July 1985 caused a huge sensation.

In terms of his art, he had now found a way to integrate all of the elements that interested him into an idiom that did justice both to the logic of painting and to his desire for a complex style capable of conveying atmosphere. As Eric Gibson noted in his review of the 1985 Turner Prize,

'If the earlier years saw Hodgkin, in his own words, trying to 'make a space' for himself within the context of the art and art world of the time, the years succeeding - those covered by the retrospective (Howard Hodgkin: 40 Paintings'1975) - have seen a consolidation and extension of his position in that 'space'. They have involved a gradual moving away from the clear, more constructed manner to one more loosely defined and more evocative.'[3]

Yet the ultimately emotional nature of his artworks, which exist as visual metaphors for something remembered or experienced, defined him as distinct from the 'mainstream.' His art is something that transcends rather than joins the contemporary art of its time. At the time, John McEwen assessed Hodgkin's achievement in Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings, 1973-84,

'All Hodgkin's pictures can be thought of as the grit of some experience pearled by reflection. They begin where words fail, evocations of mood and sensation more than visual record, but descriptions indubitably of the physical as well as the emotional reality. And this perhaps explains why in an artistically conservative country like England he is thought to be an abstract painter, while in a more artistically sophisticated one like American he is admired for being representational/ For Hodgkin himself the picture could not be more intentionally specific.[4]'

The range of references that his work embodies is vast- his pictures sympathise, in terms of their intentions, greatly with the Intimism paintings of Vuillard and Bonnard and earlier pictures particularly share several formal considerations with the Pop Art aesthetic and 1960s colour-field painters Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland. Yet his main pre-occupation has been to convey the emotional, psychological and physical character of particular encounters. Guided by memory, he evokes the ambience of a domestic interior and the subtle meanings and effects of conversations through a language of marks and signs that he has been developing since the 1950s.

A significant influence on his art is Indian painting or perhaps his experience of Indian art in general. Although Indian painting may not have influenced his work in an explicit way, Hodgkin feels that something about the atmosphere and nature of human exchange in India has probably had an effect, stating. 'It's the sort of nakedness of their very inhibited emotions. I mean, everything is very visible, somewhere there. Life isn't covered up with masses of objects, masses of possessions, so that the difference between being indoor and out of doors and all the sort of functions of life are much more visible.'[5]

This can be felt most poignantly in his paintings from the very early 1980s through to the present day, such as A Small Thing But My Own, 1983- 85. In this painting vibrantly jeweled colours permeate the interior of the frame reminding one of a court miniature. The decision here to contain the colours within the wooden boundary of the frame, only serves to intensify and distill the experience of the work. In its broad, sweeping application of heated colour, A Small Thing But My Own, is also comparable to paintings such as Indian Sky (1988- 1989) which refer more explicitly to the influence of India. However, unlike Indian Sky, in which paint sweeps across the whole of the frame, in A Small Thing But My Own, flecks of bright paint are found on the outer edges of the frame. Here the artist is playing cleverly with the idea of boundaries; on the one hand, the action of the painting is centred within the cavernous space of the interior of the frame yet these additional flecks of colour indicate that it is not contained. The picture becomes the experience and something that is constantly in flux, as the artist has declared, 'The picture, Hodgkin says firmly, 'is instead of what happened. We don't need to know the story; generally the story is trivial anyway. The more people want to know the story the less they'll look at the picture…'

[1] Alistair Hicks, 'Galleries, Tuner Prize, Tate' The Times, 11 November 1985

[2] Robert Hughes, 'A Peeper into Paradises: The glowing, ebullient artifice of England's Howard Hodgkin' The Times, 14 June 1982

[3] Eric Gibson 'The Hodgkin Paradox' Studio International 14th March 1985

[4] John McEwen and David Sylvester, Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings, 1973-84, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Gallery, London,1984, p.36

[5] Howard Hodgkin, exhibition catalogue, Anthony D'Offay Gallery, London, 1983